Parking in Sherbourne separated bike lane: will parking attitudes evolve?

A friend took a photo of a UPS courier blocking the entire separated bike lane on Sherbourne. I posted it to Twitter and got a lot of response. Some people related their own sightings of vehicles blocking the lane, including a school bus (@andyinkster : @biketo @CDL_TO I see your truck, I raise you a school bus, leaving Sherb #biketo lane and a line of taxis in front of the Phoenix. Lots of cyclists were hassling the taxis that night.

Blocking a bike lane, whether separated or not, is a major problem in Toronto. It is endemic among taxi drivers and courier drivers. Can this behaviour change? Will they get used to the idea that a barrier means they should stay out of it? A similar issue arises in areas where cars use the sidewalk to park. Thus part of the problem is a culture among drives that they have the privilege of using any part of the road or sidewalk.

While most people were angry with vehicles blocking the bike lane, one cyclist @ErinForks took the position that we should expect the lanes to be blocked now and then:

@biketo where exactly did you want him to park? R you saying bike lanes are to be clear all the time? Life isn't perfect either...

‏@r0607ninja responded:

@ErinForks @biketo That's pretty much the point of having physically separated lanes

It might look like the separated bike lanes aren't working, but perhaps the barrier is already having an effect, since it's not clear just how bad the bike lane blocking was prior to the installation. The rounded curb still allow cyclists to cross over into the next lane to pass the obstruction. It might not be as easy as without the curb, but from Twitter my sense is that most cyclists would see that as a trade-off they can live with.

Perhaps the to-be-adopted new by-laws for cycle tracks with a $150 fine for blocking will help change the attitude. Toronto could also look towards other cities to see how they've dealt with the issue with cycle tracks. It's clearly not a Toronto-centric problem. From what I understand part of the cycle track on Sherbourne will be raised which may both provide a better psychological barrier for drivers while also making it easier for cyclists to pass blockages. This may be a possible solution.

Side note: for a happier view of the bike lane jnyyz posted Critical Mass photos. Here's them riding down Sherbourne:


Sherbourne lanes used to be blocked all the time.
One memorable ride 3 years ago the northbound unseparated bicycle lanes was blocked by 5 illegally parked cars from Front Street to Bloor and the lanes were completely blocked the entire distance for 100 metres south of Bloor Street West .
The road warriors among you will say big deal just go around them.
Try that with a 3 and 5 year old on a bicycle seat on the back of your bicycle.
The big advantage with separated bicycle lanes from an enforcement view is taxis cannot enter a separated bicycle lane to pick up and unload passengers ie park.
Taxis were legally permitted to do this with unseparated lanes.
Unless the police enforcement is vigorous the only solution will be to beef up the separation and it is my guess only bollards will stop illegal parking and stopping.
We are going to be reeducating an entire region
Millions of people who have no experience with the concept of a separated bicycle lane.
The Spadina separated street car tracks had huge problems with drivers who didnt understand them etc for many years after their construction.
But we have to start somewhere.
Wellesley is not being separated permanently until 2014 the experience on Sherbourne will help assess whether we need more physical separation.
People need to document violations and photograph illegally parked couriers etc rigorously over the next several months.
The other monitoring that will have to be done is snow removal which has been promised.

Collapsible bollards may have to be installed to prevent the "I am important, the rules don't apply to me" type of driver.

There are a few things that could happen.

1) Website setup for people to upload these types of photos (specifically of taxi's and delivery vehicles) and keep a running score of the worst offenders

2) Signage changes to specifically note that the bike lanes should not be blocked

3) Higher fines and enforcement

4) In the case of taxis since they are licensed by the city, have repeat offenders lose their licenses for a few days. In the case of delivery vehicles the threat should be made that they will need to be licensed as well, with the taxi law applying to them.

5) With city owned vehicles (non-emergency) there should be potential disciplinary action taken (docked pay)

6) In the case of private vehicles - blocking a lane is already likely a demerit point if you did it in the middle of a I think the law should just be changed to be specific about blocking of any vehicle or bike lane.

7) Also tow truck operators should be allowed to tow vehicles parked in bike lanes (and transit right-of-ways) without waiting for the police to arrive.

As soon as I saw the "barrier" I began wondering how long it would take for the first photos to surface.

Tis not really a separated lane and frankly I am not one for continually riding over a painted speed bump at such an acute angle and then back across every time UPS makes a delivery. Particularly if the humps are covered in light snow or wet. Only a matter of time before they get you. Wear a helmet - this is Toronto.

Did council consider that it is possible for poorly designed barriers to simply make things worse for cyclists. Could this separated lane actually drive away pest cyclists like a set of pigeon strike strips? Will this experiment with "separated" lanes end up a failure due to poor design and subsequently put the nail in the coffin for any separated bicycle lane?

On a side note. You absolutely have the right of way inside a bike lane, or separated line like this, but in a regular lane you do not. They don't call it a right side suicide for nothing.

Doesn't the plan for Sherbourne call for bollards at least as far south as Gerrard?

Also, there already is a site for publicizing bike-lane offenders:

Or, cyclists could take it into their own hands to 'dissuade' drivers from parking in those areas. Broken mirrors, and other car parts which have a financial impact to replace will help 're-educate' parking rules.

Oddly, I have some evidence that slapping a mirror on a GM SUV will cause the mirror to break away.

By the way, "road warrior" types are as annoyed by motorists parking in the bike lanes as anyone else. Perhaps more so.

Nevertheless, I don't think I want to get involved in a Darcy Sheppard type of incident, one way or the other. So I mainly content myself with dinging my bell as loud as I can. Hopefully right by the slothful driver's ear, if he/she is in the car with the window rolled down.

A 120dB compressed air boat horn is pretty tempting sometimes, though.

Curb-separated pedestrian lanes (some people call them "sidewalks") have never prevented motorists from parking / driving on them either. We shouldn't be surprised to find cars all over the curb-separated bike lanes either.


What is really needed are laybys (indentations in roadways) for use by delivery trucks, taxis, and buses. You see them in suburbs, but only for buses (and to make motor vehicle right turns). Where there is space available (parks, large property setbacks) in each block, a delivery truck would pull over to be able to make deliveries. The negative would be it could take away pedestrian space.

At least with the laybys in place, short term stops (1 to 5 minutes?) can be made without taking needed bicycle space.

I made my first "business" trip yesterday along the Sherbourne Street bike lane between Wellesley and College. On the way there was one vehicle parked in the the separated lane and on the way home there were two (one on each side) in that one block stretch. It also seems that the bike rings I used to use on the street have been removed. All in all, I didn't feel it was a "net gain" as a cyclist using the street.

I had a driver tell me the sections painted green (without the raised bump) are to allow cars to drop passengers off. Is this true?

Nope. The green parts indicate the space for bikes to travel in where the bike lane is not (yet) separated, such as at corners, and through intersections, where cars obviously are not permitted to drop passengers off! The only parts of the lane that are supposed to be shared on a regular basis are at bus stops, where bikes are expected to stop short of the bus space (cross-hatched with green lines) if a bus makes a stop.

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